War on Terror T-Shirt Controversy

by Ryan on March 11, 2008

in Culture,The Iraq Front,War on Terror

A Pennsylvania high school student’s parents are pursuing a lawsuit because their son refused to turn his shirt inside-out after administrators deemed it was inappropriate.  The student says he wears it in honor of his uncle who’s serving in Iraq.  The t-shirt said:

“Special Issue — Resident — Lifetime License —

United States Terrorist Hunting Permit —

Permit No. 91101

Gun Owner — No Bag Limit.” 

While I agree with the shirt’s sentiment, I have to agree with the administrators on this one.  The shirt’s background has a gun on it, and that is unacceptable. 

This student wouldn’t have even made it to first period in my school, let alone last period of the day!  My niece was once suspended in First Grade for making a gun symbol with her hands at recess during a game of tag.  That’s a little ridiculous (a stern talking to would have done more to instruct my niece and angered my brother less), but I can see this kind of “speech” as a pretty big issue in high school. 

Also, there is a pre-existing dress code that the students (and their parents who purchase their children’s clothes) need to be aware of.  Expression in schools is limited, as any conservative who went to college knows, and trying to circumvent the rules in such a fashion, especially when dealing with gun imagery, is irresponsible for a 14-year-old, let alone his parents who are trying to defend his right to wear a shirt with a gun on it in public schools.  The courts are apt to see nothing else on that t-shirt but the big, red gun in the background. 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike March 11, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Your niece deserved neither a suspension nor “a stern talking to.” Using a gun symbol at recess is called “playing.” The only people who need a stern talking to are teacher union pantywaists who won’t let kids be kids.

As for this kid, I see no problem with the shirt so long as it did not disrupt classroom instruction (the article was unclear on whetehr it did). Although school expression is more limited, the First Amendment still applies in public schools. Some may be offended by the shirt, but unless it disrupted instruction, offensive speech should be protected.

What’s more outrageous about this school district’s decision is their ignorance of context. The shirt is not dangerous. It merely advocated a proper use of a legal object. Shooting a terrorist is not the same thing as shooting an innocent person.

The shirt was obviosuly a reference to the child’s soldier brother and the “terrorist hunting permit” clearly indicates that the shirt is satire. It seems to me that the educators in this case are the ones who could use a little extra classroom instruction.


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